We’re all continuing to adjust our lives in response to COVID-19, making incremental changes to resume some sense of normalcy during a time that’s anything but normal. And it’s important to look for silver linings, wherever they might be. For me, one is that I already worked remotely. I’ve been based out of my home office in Cleveland for several years, so simply having a dedicated space with all the supplies and equipment I need to function is a small win.

But as workers across the country and world are now similarly settled into work from home (WFH) life, they—and their employers—are finding a bright side to the approach, as well. Companies have begun extending WFH policies through the end of the year, some even permanently.

It’s a trend that’s extended into healthcare, as well, as shared in our June 26 webinar “COVID-19 Lessons Learned: The Owner’s Perspective.” We heard from panelists on how previously unheard-of WFH policies for healthcare employees are now coming to be embraced.

Natalie Miovski Hagerty, senior director, facilities planning and design, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), said her organization has begun surveying staffers on how the transition to WFH is going, asking about preference, effects on productivity, etc. “We’re hearing repeatedly, both from employees and leaders: ‘This working from home is not a bad thing at all; in fact, I prefer it.’”

For starters, Hagerty says, the move is supporting desires for more control over flexibility and work/life balance, especially as staffers continue to face a lack of childcare. But there’s another critical silver lining for the healthcare design industry, specifically—more space. Hagerty says CHOP is working with its internal teams to better understand if a push toward WFH might mean the organization can downsize its offices and pick up ever-valuable square footage. “During a time where we’re all under financial burden, based on the sheer swing in volumes, we need to look everywhere. And quite frankly, I’m convinced that this WFH could really become a win-win.”

Fellow webinar panelist Travis Tyson, director of architecture and planning at Cleveland Clinic, echoed Hagerty’s message, saying that Cleveland Clinic is similarly working to assess how the success of WFH might impact the organization’s footprint and operational needs. An interesting realization in the process is tied to the administrative space designed into clinical areas and patient floors—spaces once thought of as required and, now, perhaps not. “That’s where we’re looking to gain clinical space or physically distance the physicians and nurses on those floors, in order to get back to full service,” Tyson said.

While all of this remains a work in progress, the COVID-19 crisis is certainly shifting thinking about the healthcare workplace, presenting a real opportunity to gain both square footage and staff satisfaction.